So You Think it is Easy to Run an Online Business?

It’s crazy to think I have been running ThinkComputers for 10 years, but I have.  Over this time many people have said to me, “man your job must be easy”.  At the same time just as many people have said, “I wish I could do what you do”.  The truth is anyone can do what I do, but they make the mistake of thinking that it is easy and that it is not a real “job”.  I have given so many people advice and more or less a blueprint to do exactly what I do, yet they give up because they realize it is not as easy as they think and it actually requires real work.  Keep in mind I never decided to make ThinkComputers my full time job because I thought it would be easy.  I did it because I wanted to do my own thing and hey it’s nice to work in your boxers!  So if you are thinking about starting your own online business here are some things you may want to consider.

You are your own boss
This seems like a great thing right?  No one telling you what to do, being able to make your own schedule etc.  The thing you don’t realize is being your own boss is a hard thing to do from time to time.  Because technically no one is holding you accountable.  So if you sleep in, don’t work for a day, sit and watch YouTube for hours etc you cannot get in trouble as you are the boss.  This makes it very easy to be lazy.  I try to wake up at the same time each day, but when you technically don’t have to be up for anything it is really hard to drag yourself out of bed.  Being your own boss also means you need to have your day planned out with tasks.  If you do not you will just sit around and become “busy” but not productive.  These are just a few things that are not that great about being your own boss, the list can go on and on.

Working for Free
Wait what?  When you are building website or product you are technically working for free.  No one is paying you to develop the product or website.  If you are selling a product you are only going to get paid when you get orders.  When it comes to websites and ads for the most part unless you already have a website that has good traffic and a following no one is going to pay you upfront for advertising.  You will have to go with a 3rd party service like Google Adsense, which means you will not get paid for at least a month if not more.  Google Adsense like many advertising services require you to have a minimum balance (usually $100) before they will cut you a check.  So you will need to wait until you reach that amount.  To make matters worse a lot of advertising companies work on anywhere from a 30 to 60 day net payment.  That means if I made $500 in November I will not see that money for 30 to 60 days (whatever the net payment is) starting from December 1st.  This means you really have to manage your cash flow.  It can be annoying because if you have an awesome month it’s not like you can go celebrate because you don’t see that money for at least a month if not more!

Unsure of Income
One of the most stressful things about doing what I do is not knowing how much money I will be making each month.  When you are working for a company you normally know how much your check will be on the 15th and 30th.  If you are selling a product online you have no clue how many orders you will be getting each month.  If you rely on advertising then unless you are charging a flat rate you have no clue how much you will make.  That all depends on traffic, how many people click the ad etc.  If your site goes down in the middle of the night and ads do not display you are technically losing money, which you will definitely notice at the end of the month.

Always something to do
If you happen to follow me on twitter you may have seen me post the hashtag #nodaysoff, because in this business there really are no days off.  Well I mean there are, but there is always something you can be doing.  People think its crazy that I work on my birthday, on holidays and even on vacation, but I’ve done it all.  Whether its doing website optimizations to make your site load faster, finishing up an article, sending an e-mail to a potential advertiser or finishing odds and end on my birthday so I only have to work 2 hours the next day its all work that needs to be done.  Your website and online business is something that you will always be improving so if you want it to last there is always work to be done at all times.  Now just because you can work does not mean you should work, but that whole concept is for a future post.

These are just a few reasons why running your own online business is not easy and can be extremely stressful.  Does this make you want to change your mind about starting your own online business?  I really hope not.  The decision to run ThinkComputers full time has been one of the best decisions of my life.  When I see 80% of my friends who hate their job and are stuck in an office from 9-5 I know that I have made the right decision.

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How To Get All Your Work Done In 2 Hours A Day

Most people think of work as an all day affair. That is what we are programmed to think and what most people do. They go to work in the morning, work all day and come home in the evening. The question you have to ask yourself is how much of that work day is actually spent doing real work? So many people I know complain at how boring their jobs are and how they sit on Facebook all day so I assume most people who work 8 hours a day or not “working” for that full 8 hours.

I happen to be lucky enough that I can pretty much set my own schedule and work when I want, but at the end of the day work needs to get done. For years my work day would last all day and sometimes it seemed like there was not enough hours in the day to get my work done! Working like this is one not productive and two can really stress you out! I know this because I have burnt out many times over the years.

Last month when I went to Hilton Head for a week I was able to get all my work done in 2 hours. How is this possible? I was just as surprised as you that I was able to do this! After coming back I examined how I did it and have come up with the pretty solid set of rules on how you can achieve the same thing no matter where you are or what your job is.

Make a to-do List
Planning should be a very important part of your work day. The night before each work day make your to-do list for the next day. This way you don’t have to waste the time making a list in the morning when you wake up or when you get to work. When making a to-do list it should include the most critical work items, it should not be longer than 10 items. It is it longer than that you are adding non-important tasks.

Complete the Most Critical and Hardest Thing on your to-do List
Take a look at the to-do list you have made. Identify the most critical item on that list. 9 times of 10 it is also the hardest thing to do on that list. Make sure that task is the first thing you complete on your to-do list. I have always been a procrastinator, but once I had that hard task out of the way all of the other tasks for the day seemed trivial compared to it. It is extremely important that you do this, because if you leave the last thing to the end of the day your quality of work towards that task is not going to be as good…believe me I know.

Eliminate Distractions
One of the biggest things that can kill your productivity are distractions. You know that hour long phone call that you knew you shouldn’t have answered, that YouTube video someone just sent your and of course Facebook. I could go on and on about how you can eliminate these distractions, but that is an entire post in itself. The biggest thing is close off those distractions. Do NOT have Facebook or Twitter open all day. Check e-mail twice a day and that is it! Put your phone in the other room, turn it on silent or turn it off completely. With all of these things you are not going to miss anything believe me, they are just distractions to your work. And once you are done with your work you can catch up on Facebook and Twitter and check your phone for missed calls or messages.

Have Something to Work Towards
When I was on vacation my biggest motivation to get my work done was that after I was done with work I could go hang out on the beach, explore the island or go on some other type of adventure. Obviously most of us do not have that luxury, but we can still look forward to many things once we are done with our work. You could see some of the fun things that there are to do in your area and actually go do them, set a night each week to go out with friends, or join a fitness class. There are many different options, but having something to look forward to after work definitely helps you get your work done as quick as possible.

This set of 4 rules should really help you cut down the hours you are actually working, maybe not to 2 hours, but I know that using this system I have been able to basically cut my work day in half and many days down to 2 hours! There are many other things you can do to really cut your work down like outsourcing, but that is for another post. Imagine what you could accomplish if you were able to cut the hours you are working in half! Try this system and I am sure you will have success!

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Turning my Desk into a Standing Desk!

As I’ve gotten older it seems I have been exercising and working out less and less. This is never good and teamed with sitting down most of the day as I work it is definitely not a good thing. It seemed I was getting more and more tired every day, and half-way through the day I would just crash. This of course would effect my productivity and quality of work so I decided to do some research.

After seeing this infographic, reading this article and a few others just like it I found that one of the problems could be that I sit most of the day. So I went looking for standing desks. To my surprise they were very expensive and not something that I really could see in my office. I first decided to prop my keyboard, mouse, and displays up and stand in front of them. This did work, but was not very comfortable and my desk looked like a mess!

I eventually took the props down and was back to sitting. I knew if I actually was able to raise my desk I could stick with it and actually have a real standing desk. I talked to my dad about it and he made me 3 wood blocks that I could set my desk up on.

So far I’ve had my desk like this for 2 weeks and I don’t feel like changing it anytime soon. Having this higher desk means that I am standing most of the time and when I am not I do have a stool, but I try and not use it when I don’t really have to. Having my desk up higher it seems I tend to keep it cleaner and I have more room under it for things. One thing I would suggest if you do want to move to a standing desk is that you get a floor mat for your feet, standing on a hardwood floor all day is not fun!

A Week Vacation – Was it Worth It?

You know it is not often I go on vacations, something I want to change very, very soon, but when it comes to going on vacations many people make up excuses for reasons they cannot go. When my buddy Adam asked me to go to Hilton Head with him for a week some of those same excuses popped up in my head… “What about work?”, “Can I afford it?”, “I will get behind!”, etc etc. I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to go on vacation and that it was almost needed at this point so I told myself I am going on this vacation.

Burn Out
No matter if you work a 9-5 or you work for yourself on your own schedule you will in time burn out. Things will get frustrating, you will seem more stressed out and you really cannot concentrate. For me there has been times where for ThinkComputers I cannot sit down and review a product, it’s like I have a big brain fart. This happens when you are doing the same thing over and over again day after day. This is why I felt I needed this vacation.

But I still need to work?
For me, my business is not automated and I myself actually create most of the content for the site so it is hard to say I’m going on vacation for a week. You can still enjoy your vacation and work at the same time. I know this is possible, because I did it! You need to properly organize your days and maybe even work a little harder a couple weeks before you leave for vacation. For my week at the beach I had a Beach Routine that I followed each day, that way I was done with my work in the morning and had the rest of the day to really enjoy myself.

Let the Adventure Begin!
When you are on vacation make sure you treat it like one! As I just mentioned you need to make a routine that eliminates most of your work so you can really enjoy your vacation. While on vacation go out and adventure! Do not spend your vacation in your hotel room on the internet or watching tv. How is it going to feel like a vacation? On my week at the beach I always was doing something, whether at the beach, exploring the island on bikes or checking out local restaurants. Doing this gives you the “adventure” feel and should really make you feel excited about what you are doing.

Allow Yourself to Relax and Reflect
One of the biggest things I made sure I did while on vacation was take time to myself to relax and reflect. Many nights I would sit out on the balcony, watch the sunset and just think about things. You would be surprised at how relaxing that is. We normally do not get to do things like that when we are at home…it just does not happen. What’s crazy is that during the vacation no matter when I went to bed I was up by 9AM and I felt great! Not only that I was able to fall asleep no problem, something I was struggling with before I went on the trip.

Was it Worth it?
How much is happiness worth? The feeling of waking up and being excited about something is something we do not experience everyday, but to have it for a week was great. But if it’s only for a week whats the point? Well obviously being back in Pittsburgh is not the best feeling, especially after being at the beach but the vacation did so much for me. First it gave me so much more motivation, again before I went on vacation I was extremely burnt out, and now I feel like a new person! Also even since being back my sleeping / tiredness problem is not as prevalent. I am able to fall asleep pretty quickly and I feel pretty good throughout the day. Overall the trip reinvigorated my drive and really gave me the time to think about my business and myself. I am getting more done now and it feels great (Just look at how I am keeping up with this blog!). You can’t put a price on any of what I just mentioned so yeah…it was definitely worth it!

Dinner at the Salty Dog Cafe

One place Adam told us we had to check out while in Hilton Head was the Salty Dog Cafe. It is located in an area called South Beach in the Sea Pines Plantation. South Beach sits on the Braddock Cove inlet, which actually makes for some nice scenery. We headed to the Salty Dog for dinner and were seated outside on the deck / dock area, which actually only had 3 tables.

It was great to sit out there and breath in the fresh air look out at Braddock Cove. The deck actually sits right by the marina there so you get a nice view of the boats as well. The Satly Dog is known for their seafood and we were at the beach so I knew I was definitely getting seafood! The actually had a chef’s special for the night, which was a Southern Steam Pot ($24.99). The steam pot included crab legs, peel and eat shrimp, kielbasa, potatoes, and corn.

When they brought it out I couldn’t wait to dig in! Everything tasted amazing, I couldn’t believe I finished the entire meal because it was so much food.

The Salty Dog Cafe on Urbanspoon

After dinner we walked around the South Beach marina where there were many different shops, restaurants and bars. It is definitely a very cool area and a great place to spend an evening. I had my camera with me and I was able to take some shots of the marina and surrounding area. They are below.

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